I don’t have relationships figured out – yet. I am still planning to get it right. I just haven't yet. I have learned a few things I can say for sure and number one is: Don’t stay in an abusive relationship.
It doesn’t matter if it is physical, mental or emotional abuse. It probably will not get better. Believe me I am guilty of staying far too long! Most people don’t change.
I believe in commitment. I do. But you are not a doormat. Your partner should lift you up. Encourage you and catch you when you fall. That is the MINIMUM.
If you are doing all the catching, the giving the loving; get out! Of course, we all make sacrifices for our relationships. But not all the sacrifices. What are they doing for you? If you put their needs first, and they put their needs first; where does that leave you? On the bottom, and if that is frequently what happens in one sided partnerships. You need to figure out if this relationship is serving you. Does it meet your needs? If it doesn’t you need to put yourself first, find your courage and go. They do not deserve you. You are amazing!
What’s most important to you?
For me, relationships, hands down. It is people, simple as that, to love and be loved.
Connection to friends and family. What else are we here for? It can’t be the fame, the job, the house or a fancy car. It is so much more that stuff. I know those things matter, but c’mon. Aren’t those things just the icing on the cake? The love is the cake, right?
I don’t know what comes to mind first for you when you’re asked the question. But I hope that whatever it is, that there, is where you spend the majority of your energy. I can’t say that that has always been true for me in the past. Most of my adult life I was a single mother. My kids, their happiness, education and just the basic food, shelter and clothing, was the most important thing to me. Sometimes we had a lot and sometimes we had little. I wish them feeling my love would have always been number one. It wasn’t.
Before my husband and I broke up I had never really had a job. I was married at 18. I was raised to be a housewife and I was a good one. He had a descent job and I babysat other kids so that I could be home with my own. This was a problem when we divorced because he did not pay the court-ordered child support. Welfare is never an option in our family. We were raised to work and work hard, but I had no idea what to do to make money. I didn’t want to babysit anymore. I didn’t want to be home all day everyday with kids and no adults.
Somehow that felt like I was trying to be a house wife, with no husband. I decided to figure out how to support myself. So, I did.
Coming out of that awful marriage I had just about no self-worth and very little self-esteem. I stayed far too long in that relationship with my husband. He beat me and belittled me for years and I stayed. He was an alcoholic and drug addict, and still I stayed. Always hoping he’d change. Always willing to pussy-foot so I wouldn’t set him off. When it was over, and he finally left me, I wondered if I’d ever get my ‘self’ back. I still don’t know why I gave so much. I assume that even back then the marriage, the relationship, was the most important thing to me. But now, working and supporting these children on my own had to become my number one focus. It was for years.
I tried one thing after another. Fortunately for me, I love everything and I am pretty good at lots of stuff. I was young and full of creative energy. I met lots of people and made friends easily. And God always blesses me. He puts the right people in the right place at the right time. I generally live life in a series of fortunate events. I try not to let things ger me down. I believe the best is yet to come. I plan on good things happening to me, because they always do. When one door closes another one opens. I have always made do with what I have. Life has worked well for me, because I was willing to try the next thing. No risk, no reward.
So what does this have to do with relationships? Everything.
I have three children. Melissa, Tyler and Kimberly. The oldest two, had a very similar upbringing. They were moved from place to place when they were young. After all, we moved from the house with their father to my friend’s attic for 4 months. Then we moved to downtown Portland to the top of the nicest condo’s in the city at the time. I cooked and cleaned for room and board + gas and $500 month. After about 6 months of that we got an apartment for a while. But then I was able to buy a house for us. I probably promised we would stay put. No more moving, I knew Melissa didn’t like change. Unfortunately, this guy I had been seeing started stalking me and I got too scared to live there. So, back to the apartment until I was able to sell that house and buy a new one. We finally had a home we loved and we lived there for many years. But here’s the thing; Melissa hates to move, she always has. My kids did go to several different schools over those first few years. I saw it as doing the best I could do. She saw that as a kind of abuse. She believes I needed to stay put for their sake. She is still resentful for her childhood and the mistakes she believes I made. Tyler, he’s a different story. He doesn’t see that as abuse. He doesn’t think back and see it caused any harm. He is a very happy and well-adjusted man.
Every person is different and thus, every relationship is different. What works for one person doesn’t work for another. I guess that why we get along so differently with some than others. Tyler, is very much like me and he is always for me. He see’s me and understands me. I’ve always seen Kimberly as a mix of the other two. She is not harsh like Melissa nor is she completely understanding like Tyler. She always either comes around or forgives me. Kimberly could be very mad at me for the same reasons Melissa is. Although we didn’t move a lot, I worked a lot. I was buried alive in my agency. A workaholic, I guess. I didn’t go out socially or anything, I just worked too much. I was not there for her when she needed me. All the while, she was probably the best friend I had for those years. I relied on her too much, she was still just a kid. For that I am truly sorry. If there was something I could re-do, it would be that. She has done her best to forgive me. We are very close as well.
I am 60 years old and I’ve finally put in the time it takes to develop a healthy and honest relationship with myself. I wish I’d have done that a long time ago. But I didn’t. I didnt know how. I had no idea how important it is. I don’t live with regret. I let stuff go. Although I am not proud of it, I freely admit I gave up a lot of my time on other things. Time that could have been giving to my kids, especially when I first divorced. I know I could have done better. I was a lost soul back then. I married so young, and gave so much to that relationship, I honestly didn’t know who I was. I actually was afraid I couldn’t live without him. I didn’t have a clue where to start.
So here I am, after all these years and too many relationships to count, realizing that where you put your energy, your time and your talent means everything. I know you have to be a friend to have friend. You get out what you put in, and all the other cliches. But I didn’t always follow that advise. I am playing catch-up now. I have a good relationship with all three kids, my two grandchildren, two sisters and a brother. I have my best friend, Shelly; I talk to most every day and several other close friends. It takes time to nurture and grow these relationships. For me, it is time well spent.
I do have another brother and sister who are so deep in their addictions that I believe they are not mentally capable of having a true relationship at this time. I have tried to be there for them, but it is very hard. The door is still wide open on my side. I love them both very much.
So, what’s most important to you? Do you show it in your words and deeds? You only have so much time, talent and resources. Don’t waste them like I often did.
I remember this old preacher who said “show me your checkbook and I will tell you what you value in your life.” I think that is very true for most of us. Where your time money and energy go- there you are. If I look at my money, it goes to plane tickets to visit my family. I love inviting people to share a meal. People bond while breaking bread together and I love to cook.